Went for a long walk with my mom tonight. She said that it's hard seeing how her family is so broken.
I feel the same way. It's certainly hard to uncover the roots of your life and find them dry, tormented, twisting in all sorts of ungodly shapes (much like the trees down here in Texas). The unloving language that never seems to talk about anything below the surface. The deep uncomfortability with, and thus inability to show affection through touch. The sexism and homophobia that have caused such pain to both my mother and her brother (who is here with his husband).
I wrote in my journal today that perhaps the best thing I can do here is to listen. That hearing and judging are sequential, and perhaps I can do my grandparents the service I am guessing they haven't received enough in their lives - that of being listened to because they are human and deserve it, outside of judgment.
I am trying. I'm not sure they have much to say. Already they fall into clean categories. Ray talks about facts - places, dates, things he knows. He shares, sometimes, anecdotes from his life, but rarely do they drift towards deeper meaning. Rarely does he talk with sincerity about why these events meant something to him - what a relationship means to him - what he believes or what he still aspires for with his life. Nor does he ask.
Nettie talks to fill the space, to express anxiety, to take control over a situation. It's not always clear which is which, and is very confusing to make out what she means to communicate.
With both of them, I am waiting for sincere contact. As their grandson, I crave it. I would be thrilled to hear how they've lived their life, what they regret, what they are proud of. What they believe, on the deepest level. How they view their response to Jeff's being gay. How they view their relationship (or lack thereof) with me and my brothers. I'm not sure it's coming. At least, perhaps not on this trip. They have other things to deal with (tip-toeing around the aforementioned mishandling of their son's coming out).
It does feel good, however, to talk to Mom. We can help each other comprehend the situation much better, and it feels that some progress is made as we talk with one another. That she is beginning to understand the nature of my love for her - that I am her son, I'm not going anywhere. As a result, let's be totally honest. And I feel that I can now be more honest with her about what I'm seeing in our family. At times, I'm too critical. Most of the time I think I'm pretty balanced. I'm trying to feel and speak honestly, patiently, clearly.
Two other points to touch on:
I exchanged messages with Katie before she went to bed in Iceland. While I don't want a traditional relationship with her (whatever that means), I've really enjoyed the increased frequency of messages exchanged between us as we've been traveling, and the small gestures of emotional support contained therein. I opened up a little about my frustrations with family - she sent support and a kissing emoji (the power of which is surprisingly large). We said goodnight to one another. Lucky us.
Walking around downtown Austin was strange. It felt to me to be at the crossroads between a town's community-based soul, and the influence of corporations and new money in a town. The stores seemed to be performing the soul the city is known to have, hiding their own responsibility in destroying it. A familiar script for cities victim to gentrification, but a unique performance out tonight. It felt like Disney world, walking down Sixth ave. Wide, manufactured, eerie, and sad. Made me feel proud to be from (and soon heading back to) Richmond, VA.
Which brings up one other thing: this time with my mother and our family has put the rest of my family into clarity by contrast. Oma and Opa are imperfect, but god bless them for all the effort they've put into having relationships with me and my siblings, and the genuine warmth they project towards us. I guess this is the nature of family - the varying branches each help you understand the other. Jump from one to one untill you can see the whole.